Hindu Hospitality

When I told you about the Mormon girls coming to visit us, I mentioned Hindu hospitality off-hand and I wanted to return to that subject today.

From what I understand it is very normal for people in India to drop by friends’ houses unannounced and there’s an atmosphere of always being ready to entertain guests should they show up.


It’s not like that in most of America. Usually here people expect that you will make an appointment to visit. Your friends are likely to be busy with something and you want to make sure that you’re fitting into their lives and plans and not inconveniencing them.

There’s something to be said for it. You know what your plans are and who you’re going to be seeing that day. But I kind of miss the atmosphere of my college dorm where you could always walk over to your friend’s room and see what they were up to. Even living in an apartment building, which is a similar set up, doesn’t have that feel.

I suspect that the culture of being open to having guests at any moment is partly to do with Hinduism’s influence in India. Welcoming your guest is the same as welcoming God.

It’s not just Hinduism, of course. In myths and stories around the world there are lots of examples of Gods or sages disguising themselves and going to visit regular people, testing them to see how they treat their fellow human beings when no one is watching.

In Hinduism, though, it isn’t just that the person showing up at your door could be God testing you, it’s that they are definitely God. Because everyone is.

So when you have a guest and you know that guest is a manifestation of the divine, of course you greet them with delight and make sure they enjoy their visit. You give them tea and food and offer entertainment.

It’s a blessing to have an opportunity like that to serve God!

Unfortunately, because this is not the culture in most of America, the guests themselves are more likely to be reluctant to avail themselves of welcoming friends. It is a service also to allow your friends and family to provide for you. When your friend offers you a place to stay, or tells you to stop by any time, or makes a snack for you, do accept! Take them at their word. It is graciousness on your part to accept and it puts your host at ease.

And to my own friends, I love to have people over. Our home is always ready. We have a guest room you are welcome to use and even if you just want to stop by for a board game and some tea, please do. Just call me to make sure I’m home, but most evenings I am!

Some other perspectives on it:

About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • http://dashifen.com/ David Dashifen Kees

    Very interesting. Hospitality is also very important in a lot of Pagan traditions. The myths that inform many of them include stories of the gods masquerading as unannounced guests and rewarding those who provide for them (e.g. Baucis and Philemon) and often punishing those who did not (sometimes fatally so, as in the previously link). These myths are linked to the concept of Xenia which informs many Pagans who practice some form of Hellenic traditions, for example.

    I’m less personally familiar with Heathenry (forms of Paganism and Polytheism based on Norse and Germanic cultures) but I do know that Hospitality is part of the Nine Noble Virtues that some forms of Heathenry and were developed based on the Poetic Edda.

    Thanks for this article. Sorry that I sort of brain dropped a whole bunch of tangentially related stuff down here. Moderate me if you need to; I just get overly excited sometimes :)

    • Ambaa

      I think that’s great! It’s fun to find connections like that. There are places where human experience really overlaps :)

    • Alyxander M Folmer

      (Hi David!)
      Hospitality was an important virtue to the Germanic peoples. This verse is from the Havamal, which is part of a collection of sacred texts that modern Heathens refer to as “The Lore”.
      The first stanza is about being cautious and prepared for anything. The second is the first of many stanzas on proper Hospitality. I think this is a fair summary of Heathen priorities. :)


    I bet that girl now turned in to a young woman is still crying today on what you did to her. Kids don’t understand rules of etiquette, but they always mean well. :)

    OK, I will see you in Jiffy for tea, Pakora and entertainment. ( wide grin ) :0

    • Ambaa

      She was not a pleasant person. Even as a kid, she was spiteful, mean, and she stole toys from me and then lied about it.

      • HARRY

        come on, I was just Kidding when I said that about that girl.
        So, when can I pop around? :)

        • Ambaa

          Any time! We would love to have you. :)

  • xJane

    I kind of miss the atmosphere of my college dorm where you could always walk over to your friend’s room and see what they were up to.

    Me, too! and especially when I went to grad school and didn’t live on campus. There’s something to be said for living in a community where you can drop in, unannounced just to hang out. And for living in a community where you are prepared for that.

    • Ambaa

      Definitely! We’re trying to make friends with some of our neighbors, but it can be hard to even see people coming and going.